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THE possibility of an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) before the Edo State governorship primary is remote, it was learnt on Monday.
The shadow poll is expected to hold on June 22, according to the guidelines by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) which has directed the chapter to brace up for a direct primary.
However, some party chieftains, including some governors rooting for Governor Godwin Obaseki’s second term, are mounting pressure on the party leadership to consider an emergency NEC meeting to renew the guidelines on the direct primary.
Obaseki and his supporters, who are resisting the direct primary, are rooting for an indirect primary or delegate system.
But, APC National Publicity Secretary Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, who spoke on preparations for the Edo election in Abuja, said there would be no need for any emergency NEC meeting before the poll.
He said: “Why should there be emergency meeting? What is the emergency? COVID-19? We, NWC, are involved in the day to day running of the party and this is part of the routine we carry out. This is not the first time and whoever said that also is expressing view, which is also allowed in democracy.”
Issa-Onilu, spoke shortly after the party displayed the aspirants’ credentials, was silent on wether the screening committee, which will be set up today, will disqualify any aspirant based on alleged forgery and perjury.
As the battle for the primary rages, the Federal High Court (FHC) in Benin, presided over by Justice Mohammed Umar, fixed June 11 for hearing of the exparte motion by Obaseki’s allies seeking to restrain the NWC from adopting the direct mode for the primary.
The suit, with reference number: FHC/B/CS/48/2020, was filed by the factional Edo Deputy Chairman of APC, Kenneth Asekomhe, and a governorship aspirant Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, citing COVID-19 pandemic and the 2018 NEC resolution as the grounds for their action.
The plaintiffs also prayed the court to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from monitoring the primary and the police from giving effect to the NWC’s guidelines.
Their counsel, Ken Mozia (SAN) and John Odubela (SAN), maintained that the APC Constitution provided that states should suggest the mode of primary to the NWC, stressing that the leadership of the party in Edo had suggested indirect mode, in which 4,000 delegates would participate at the stadium in Benin.
The defendants in the suit are APC; its National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo state; INEC; and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP).
The presiding judge, on June 5, adjourned hearing of the motion till June 8, following an argument that ensued after counsel to the first defendant (APC), H. O. Ogbodu (SAN), appeared in court and demanded to be served the motion papers.
Consequently, Justice Umar, on June 5, declined to grant the exparte motion, but instead gave the defendants three days to file their papers to show cause why the injunction should not be granted and adjourned the case till June 8.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, one of counsel to the plaintiffs, Mozia (SAN), said many processes were filed and arguments on the exparte application for injunction had commenced, and the defendants were ordered to show cause why the injunction should not be granted.
Counsel to the first defendant (Ogbodu), however, raised objection to the court’s jurisdiction, insisting that it was a political party issue.
Ogbodu said: “We were ordered to show cause for the application for an injunction by way of exparte and we have done that. The court has given time to exchange all our processes and then give judgment.”
Three aspirants, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Dr. Pius Odubu and Osaro Obazee, also sought to be joined in the suit as the 5th, 6th and 7th defendants, through a motion on notice before the court, but the application was not heard yesterday, because the presiding judge said it was not ripe for hearing.
Justice Umar, in his ruling, ordered that all parties to exchange processes, adding that they should not proceed on the issue within two days, until the hearing.
The proceeding, according to official court records, ended with the court ordering the maintenance of status quo, after it refused appeals by the plantiffs, who filed the injunction to grant the interim restraining order.
The judge, acknowledging the urgency and sensitivity of the matter, set June 11 as the date for a full hearing, before a verdict could be delivered on the matter.
Other aspirants who have submitted their expression of interest and nomination forms: Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Hon. Dr. Pius Odubu, Mr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Hon. Osaro Obazee and Hon. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen. The credentials were on display.
Details of the documents placed on the notice board at the APC National Secretariat by Organising Secretary, Emma Ibediro, showed that the governor, Godwin Obaseki, has 3 credits and 3 passes in his 1973 West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) submitted for screening. The subjects Obaseki passed include: English P7, Literature P7, CRK C6, History A3, Geography C6 and Chemistry P8.
The governor later proceeded to higher school, the Institute of Continuous Education between 1976-1979 before gaining admission into University of Ibadan, where he studied Classics.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s 1979 West African Examination Council (WAEC) result showed that he made division 1 with the following grades; English Language C4, English Literature C4, History C4, Mathematics A3, Chemistry P7, Biology A3, Economics C4 and Agricultural Science P7.
He later studied Law at the University of Benin, graduated from the Law School in 1986/87 and called to the Bar in 1987.
Shedding light on what informed the display of the credentials, Issa-Onilu said it was a precautionary measure to avert the previous experience in Bayelsa state.
He said: “We have had experience that was not so palatable. We have had experiences that were so shocking and we won’t be doing the right thing if we don’t learn from those experiences.
“You will recall what happened in Bayelsa, we thought we did the best we should, but it turned out that we did not do enough. So, the best thing we have to do now is to go beyond ourselves to do things that may not be known to us.
“Besides the fact that we have put it out here for anybody who has information to help the screening committee, we are also taking official steps to verify some of these documents to be sure that we do the right thing and come out clean.
Issa-Onilu added: “By mere putting it on the board here, making it transparent, putting it before the public, it does mean that people who know them very well; school mates, aquintances, friends and even enemies could come up with whatever they have. We are expecting help from whatever angle it could come from.
“All we are interested in is that, we ensure transparency, ensure that we comply with our constitution, the electoral act and the Constitution of this country. Give everybody a fair chance and be seen to have done your best.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has denied making overtures to Governor Obaseki to defect to the main opposition party.
The party similarly denied reported moves by Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi to defect to the PDP with his supporters.
While the Edo election is billed to hold on September 19; Ondo’s will hold on October 10.
PDP publicity secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, who spoke in Abuja, said the party was not seeking to align forces with Obaseki and Ajayi ahead of the elections.
He said the PDP did not allow room for negotiation or sale of slots for aspirants in the election, adding that the party has capable and competent aspirants in the two states.
Ologbondiyan said: “I am not aware of a defection in Ondo state. I am also not aware if we tried to convince Governor Obaseki to join the PDP.
“I am aware that the PDP has aspirants in Edo and Ondo states. Prior to the situation in Edo, our party was open and any Nigerian who was ready to contest a clean, clear, free, fair and democratic primaries was at liberty to join the party.
“We can say this before all Nigerians; under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus as the national chairman of the PDP, we do not negotiate slots. We don’t sell slots. It is clear, you can find out.
“It is strange and totally misplaced for anybody to make such allegation. I never sat in any meeting where such discussions allegedly took place. The allegation is totally unfounded and it is unacceptable to us as a party”.